Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ice “Damms”- A Personal Experience

My wife and I have lived in our house for over 30 years and have never experienced the degree of ice dams on the north side of our house as we have this year.  We also have never had any water intrusion damage of the interior ceilings/ walls and we hope to keep this record intact. 

About 8 years ago, we had new roof shingles installed with 3 feet of ice/water shield barrier used as a protective measure but as the ice dam grew thicker (~ 8”) this winter I began to get a little worried.

I understand the mechanics of how these ice dams are formed (see figure above) and how to avoid them but at this point I needed some way to release the water before it was too late.  Brute force chiseling of the ice did not seem like a good option but I had heard about the use of calcium chloride salt as a possible remedy.

After spotting some calcium chloride salt in front of Brightwood Hardware, I stopped in and chatted with Stan who told me how easy it was to solve my problem.  Use some nylon stockings (or ice melt socks), fill them with the calcium chloride salt, place them on the ice and watch it melt away.  I purchased the salt … followed the instructions … the results were amazing.  See the photos below:

12 hours after I had started the process, there was a 2-3" wide slot formed through the 8" of ice. The roof shingles were exposed and free of ice and water was flowing freely into the gutter.  Salt water has started melting snow and ice in my downspouts as well.  I'm now hoping for warm weather that will slowly melt all of the snow that is now around our house without causing flooding in the basement.

I expect that there may be some salt related problems with grass and vegetation in the immediate area of the downspouts but this seemed to be a small price to pay to avoid water damage to interior ceilings and walls. 

It been a long time since Longmeadow residents (as well as the rest of Western Mass) have seen the type of winter as we have this year.  Stop in and chat with Stan at Brightwood if you have problems similar to mine.  Tell him that I sent you.

Let's hope that the rest of the winter will be mild without a lot of rain or additional snow!


Unknown said...

Thanks Jim, Wish I had a way to reach my 2 story roof . The icicles are awful!

Linda Pianowski said...

Could this damage your shingles?

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...


As far as I know this is a recommended method for removing ice dams from asphalt shingles. There was no damage to my shingles as far as I can observe.

Use an chisel and other tools to remove the ice can certainly damage the shingles.

Good luck.
Jim Moran

Unknown said...

I have heard the use of this method works well too in limited quantities as it may hurt vegetation if it is not drained away from the roots.
However I thought the process was to lay them the long way following the dam vs creating just a slot.

Jim Moran, LongmeadowBiz said...


I oriented the salt socks perpendicular to the gutter because I felt that the ice dam formation was at least 24" from the edge of the roof. Aligning the socks parallel to the edge ensured that I would create some paths for the backed up water to drain.